WOMEN’S HEALTH & DIVING
When it comes to fitness for diving, the recommendations for male and female divers are largely the same: good exercise tolerance, a healthy weight and awareness of possible concerns related to medical conditions and medications. Regardless of sex, all divers should use appropriate thermal protection, remain hydrated, understand the diving environment and dive conservatively.
Men and women, however, are physically and physiologically different. With women representing about a third of the recreational diving population – in 2013 the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) reported its population of certified divers as 66 percent male and 34 percent female, and males represent 64 percent of insured DAN members1 – it is important to consider specific health concerns that female divers face.
For both men and women, body temperature is centrally controlled in the hypothalamus and is affected by factors such as body fat content, fat distribution and body surface-area-tomass ratio. Hormonal differences may affect thermoregulation, but body composition and size typically drive responses to cold exposure. Total heat loss may be greater in women because they generally have higher surface-area-tovolume ratios and lower muscle mass compared with men (greater muscle mass is associated with greater metabolic heat production).
Some research suggests that women’s body temperature falls more rapidly during immersion in cold water while at rest. The bottom line is that every diver should wear a suit that fits well and keeps him or her warm – exposure protection helps compensate for any heat loss due to hormonal or anthropometric differences.
No evidence suggests that women who dive while menstruating are harassed or bitten by sharks more often. However, anxiety, dizziness,